Could you ever see yourself turning your back on a normal job and living the life of a nomadic free spirit for a week, a month or even an entire year? How about traversing countries and continents so that you really got to know the world, one tea-sharing villager at a time?
One week you'd be in your cubicle dutifully filing TPS reports, earning your final paycheck, and the next week you'd be free, carrying all your means of survival on a bicycle. How life-altering would it be to pedal alongside Mongolian yaks in the historic stronghold of Genghis Khan? Or to trade the vapid voyeurism of "reality" television for real adventures of your own? Sound like a fantasy? The truth is that ordinary people find a way to do it all the time.
Take for instance, Nancy Sathre-Vogel and John Vogel, school teachers who biked from Alaska to Argentina between 2008 and 2011...along with their two young sons [source: Familyonbikes.org].
While the Vogels' case is pretty extreme, many people are finding similar, if much shorter, bicycling trips to be the perfect fit for vacations ranging in duration from a long weekend to a few months.
Welcome to the world of adventure cycling, a form of recreation that indulges wanderlust in a similar fashion to backpacking, while offering the speed and mobility of pedal power.
If your idea of a perfect vacation is to loaf on white sand beaches at a sanitized resort, sequestered with other tourists and segregated from the locals, then adventure cycling probably isn't for you.
On the other hand, if you enjoy relying on your own wits to survive, camping out, interacting directly with people from other cultures, and don't mind a fair bit of physical exertion, then this type of bike riding may sit just as well with you as a gel-padded saddle.
The precise of definition of "adventure cycling" varies widely. But most practitioners would agree it's a type of long-distance, overnight bicycle touring that can have a profound effect on riders. Tim Barnes, creator of the online Adventure Cycling Guide, describes the hobby as: "An easy way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary adventures...It's cheap, easy to organize and you don't have to be superfit. By far the hardest bit of a 12,000km (7,456 mi) bike ride is finding the courage to set off" [source: Barnes].
Adventure cycling requires some commitment and investment to do safely and enjoyably. But don't let limited funds or other wimpy excuses keep you stuck daydreaming on the couch (or in that cubicle). Plenty of cyclists have crossed countries and continents on beater bikes and thin budgets.
Over the next few pages, we'll take a look at 10 indispensable tips to heed before embarking on an adventure cycling trip of your own.